Hugh Jackman was poised to get back to his musical and ancestral roots in the animated Australia-set musical Larrikins, but now it appears that won’t be happening after all. DreamWorks Animation began working on a musical called Larrikins back in 2011, hiring Tim Minchin—the composer and lyricist behind the Broadway musical Matilda the Musical—to write new songs in 2013. He was upped to director in 2014, with Shrek the Third and Puss in Boots helmer Chris Miller joining him as co-director later, but now with less than a year to go before release, DreamWorks Animation has cancelled Larrikins altogether.
I’ve recently been working in 3 different continents, missing my kids a lot, sleeping too little and not playing piano enough.
And then a couple of days ago, the animated film to which I’ve dedicated the last 4 years of my life was shut down by the new studio execs.
The only way I know how to deal with my impotent fury and sadness is to subject members of the public to the spectacle of me getting drunk and playing ballads.
I suspect I won’t be very funny, I won’t be doing any stand-up, and I might act a bit bitter and spoilt. On the upside, the tickets are as cheap as I could make them, and I might be tempted to buy a round.
Come and drink with me, my friends, and we’ll see what happens.
The new execs he’s referring to are NBCUniversal, as Jeffrey Katzenberg sold the animation company to Universal last year. Chris Meledandri, head of Universal-owned Illumination Entertainment (the studio behind Minions, Despicable Me, and Secret Life of Pets), didn’t take a formal role with DreamWorks Animation but was said to be consulting on “the most effective path forward”, while former president of animation at Warner Bros. Chris DeFaria was installed in the new position of president of the DreamWorks Feature Animation Group. Bonnie Arnold remains as the president of Feature Animation, while Margie Cohn is still in charge of Animation TV.
All of this to say, things are different at DreamWorks Animation now, and as DeFaria and the Universal team began to look at the slate, it appears they decided Larrikins wasn’t worth continuing—even as the film was set for release in February 2018.
Jackman was joined in the voice cast by Margot Robbie, Naomi Watts, Rose Byrne, and Ben Mendelsohn, and the story was described as a genuine musical road movie that was a mix of Star Wars and Gods Must Be Crazy.
It’s a shame the project was cancelled so swiftly, and this puts the rest of DreamWorks Animation’s upcoming slate in doubt. The studio has struggled for quite some time to find its place in the animation world, with misses like Home and Mr. Peabody & Sherman outweighing the hits like How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda. They had a much-needed hit this past fall with Trolls and are already working on a sequel, so it’s possible they simply decided they didn’t need two musicals in the works.